ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that US President Joe Biden should follow up on the ongoing Afghan peace process and withdrawal of the US troops from the country.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, the foreign minister said that the new US administration should realise that there is an opportunity in Afghanistan and they should persevere with what was initiated.
Qureshi stressed on the need for the intra-Afghan negotiations, currently continuing in the Qatari capital Doha, to focus on moving forward. “Pakistan is playing the role of a facilitator,” he said. “The ultimate responsibility […] is with the Afghan leadership. It’s their country, it’s their future.”
“I have had a number of meetings [with them], and I have been telling them … and convincing them, please come into the mainstream,” said Qureshi.
“You have come to the table, and by coming to the table you have earned respectability to a large extent in the international community.”
Qureshi said he had urged Taliban Political Commission (TPC) chief Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had previously spent years in Pakistani custody, to “accept the change” in Afghanistan.
“Accept this new reality, and accept this change. You cannot turn the clock back. Understand what has happened, live with it and see what can be done.”
During talks with Afghan government counterparts, Qureshi said Pakistan had been urging Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government to accept the “ground reality” of the Taliban’s support amongst some Afghans.
“The Taliban and people who are sympathetic to them, they are a reality,” he said. “Who are they? They are Afghans. Talk to them, tell them, convince them that they should give up violence and shift from the bullet to ballot.”
Qureshi said Pakistan aimed to have broad-ranging ties with Afghanistan, and that its ultimate goal was regional connectivity after peace was established in its northwestern neighbour.
“It is not going to be an easy ride. It is going to be difficult, the road is going to be bumpy and it’s going to be time-consuming, one has to understand all of that,” he added. “And yet there are opportunities, we should not miss those opportunities.”
Qureshi further stated that “there are elements from outside who do not share our vision of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.”
He threw down the gauntlet to India to restart direct dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi, saying the “onus lies on [them]” to reverse steps in the disputed region of Kashmir and end alleged rights abuses there before the two countries can come to the table.
Qureshi accused the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of adopting “aggressive rhetoric” and “acting irresponsibly”. “Who vitiated the climate? Obviously the Indians. Now if things have to improve, the onus lies on India,” he said, referring to steps taken by Modi’s government to revoke a special constitutional status for Indian-administered Kashmir in August 2019 and a subsequent security crackdown in the region, which lasted several months.
Qureshi said there are currently “no formal or informal parleys going on” between the two countries, including meetings between former officials that are commonly referred to as “Track II dialogues”.
Qureshi claimed the international community with which Pakistan has shared a dossier on Indian involvement in sabotaging regional peace is “certainly viewing things very carefully and they are looking at what we have presented very seriously”.
Separately, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Dr Moeed Yusuf said the government wanted to pursue a bilateral relationship with the United States that not hyphenated or clouded by US interests in other regional countries, but rather based on mutual understanding.
The above was said while the SAPM was addressed a gathering of US policymakers at a Washington-based thinktank in the Wilson Center titled “US-Pakistan Relations in the Biden Era” a day after the Biden inauguration, said a statement.
“In the past, Pakistan was unfortunately seen by Afghanistan prism,” he said, emphasizing that the world had undergone an immense transformation in the past four years and the new administration should look beyond Obama-era conversation to build a truly bilateral relationship with Pakistan.
He told the participants of the thinktank that they were now dealing with a different Pakistan.
A Pakistan which was self-confident and whose formal vision was squarely based on economic security paradigm, he said on the occasion.
“Pakistan of today is very different. Terrorism in Pakistan is negligible, we have turned the corner,” the SAPM stated.
Delving deeper into regional peace, Yusuf said that the international community was also dealing with a different India. He maintained that this new India was intolerant, had serious internal tensions, had human rights concerns and was taking the unilateral decision, including in Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
India is destabilizing the region and becoming a liability on anyone dealing with it, including the US, he said.
SAPM Dr Moeed said that “we wish to achieve a peaceful region where international obligations are met by all countries”.
Dr Moeed Yusuf, while elaborating Pakistan’s vision, said: “Our focus is connectivity and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an obvious example of it. This is the reason we desire peace and stability in Afghanistan for westward connectivity. Furthermore, we are looking for development partnerships.”
“Pakistan is talking about becoming a geo-economic melting pot that is ready to consolidate global positive interest in our territory. We are talking about providing the world with economic bases, not military bases,” he said.
He noted that all Western multinational companies (MNCs) in Pakistan earned profits well above their global average, demonstrating that Pakistan remained a lucrative market for foreign companies.
“How about having US reprocessing zones? Expanding the reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs)? Having US-China co-investments in regional connectivity?”
He stressed that the Biden administration and Pakistan could work closely on important global challenges such as climate change – a priority area for both the Biden administration and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government.
He reiterated that there were opportunities for Pakistan to work with the US in regional diplomacy in Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere to decrease global tensions and restore the multilateral system.
With additional input from APP